Eating a vegetarian diet has been shown in many studies to be healthier than eating a meat-based diet. However, this is not the only reason people choose to go vegetarian: environmental, cultural, religious, and ethical factors all play into the decision to not eat meat.
Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry, or fish (people who include small amounts of these foods in their diets sometimes call themselves semivegetarians, or flexitarians.) Vegetarians build their diets around a wide variety of plant foods, including grains (such as rice, barley, and oats), grain-based foods (such as bread, pasta, and cereals), legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume dairy foods and eggs, but no fish, poultry, or meat.
- Vegans are strict vegetarians who do not eat any animal products, including dairy products, eggs, and honey.
- Pesco-vegetarians include fish in their diet.
Health benefits can be reaped just by decreasing the amount of meat you eat, even if you don't decide to follow a fully vegetarian diet.
Ready to veg out? Start by choosing whole grains, legumes, and soy products. Add in fruits and vegetables; remember you should get five to nine servings per day. Soy foods such as tofu, soy milk, and soy-based meat substitutes play an important role in many vegetarian diets. In addition, cheese and milk made from rice, almonds, and soybeans are prominent in some vegetarian diets.